Housing activist Kwajo Tweneboa has described how the squalid conditions endured by his terminally ill father inspired him to fight for others.
The 23-year-old was living with his family in ‘totally ruined’ social housing – with damp, mould, cockroaches, mice and no kitchen or bathroom – when his father fell ill with cancer of the esophagus.
It was ‘just a place no one should have lived in, let alone someone receiving medical treatment for such a serious illness,’ Mr Tweneboa told Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews.
Her father, a carer, died in January 2020 – and her fight to improve conditions at the south London property, shared with her two sisters, started in earnest before turning into wider activism on behalf of tenants of abused social housing.
The problem, he said, is a “national disgrace” – especially after the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, in which 72 people died, one would have expected it announces renewed interest in social housing.
Explaining how his fight for better conditions began, Mr Tweneboa said: “While my father was sick, that was the main kind of concern.
“I mean, the accommodation was parked to the side because it was just trying to improve it. We thought it would.
“But when he died and I looked back I realized that was just unacceptable. How is that not illegal? And he was the kind of fire I needed.
“And that carried me to today because I’m very determined that no one lives in these conditions, let alone people who receive medical care. But it’s happened time and time again and I Saw it.”
Mr Tweneboa’s campaign has won him recognition from the likes of Secretary Michael Gove.
In a recent case, after posting a video of a cockroach-infested dwelling on social media, the family living there were moved to a hotel within 24 hours and have since been allocated new permanent accommodation.
Mr Tweneboa said the issue had never been seen as a priority and had “gradually worsened” under Tory governments over the past decade.
“After Grenfell… you would expect this to be the top priority when it comes to regulation and liability for social housing providers and landlords.
“But unfortunately five years later they haven’t been. And I think that’s a national disgrace.
“I think every politician in Westminster should be shouting and shouting from the rooftops about this because I have no doubt that in every constituency there is a resident living in council housing or poor housing, not even just social housing conditions in housing in general.
“And that shouldn’t happen, especially after Grenfell.”
Mr Tweneboa welcomed plans outlined in the Queen’s Speech this week for laws to crack down on rogue landlords – but would like to see more details.
“They need to be held accountable,” he said.
“With the work I’ve done over the past year…not a single CEO or senior executive of any of these social housing providers has lost their job, but if it had been a situation where this happened in the NHS or any other public sector, people would have lost their jobs as a result.
“I would like to see more regulation, more enforcement against landlords, more fines.
“I would like tenants to have more voice. I have already called for residents’ associations to be set up in all areas of the UK.
“I think it’s so important that tenants are heard and that they need to be at the forefront and make it a priority when it comes to the imposition of this bill. They need to be the people. Don’t listen to anybody else, okay? Because they’re the ones who are suffering.”
Mr Tweneboa has previously spoken of becoming mayor of London one day, but said he was ‘very disappointed’ with the two main parties at the moment.
He has just completed a degree in business studies and has ambitions to be an artist. He hopes one day not to have to be contacted by people who need his help.
“Success for me would be when my phone stopped ringing tenants… Complaining that they were constantly ignored and asking for my help accordingly.”
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